Arabidopsis does not support the growth and asexual reproduction of the barley pathogen, Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei Bgh). A majority of germlings fail to penetrate the epidermal cell wall and papillae. To gain additional insight into this interaction, we determined whether the salicylic acid (SA) or jasmonate (JA)/ethylene (ET) defence pathways played a role in blocking barley powdery mildew infections. Only the eds1 mutant and NahG transgenics supported a modest increase in penetration success by the barley powdery mildew. We also compared the global gene expression patterns of Arabidopsis inoculated with the non-host barley powdery mildew to those inoculated with a virulent, host powdery mildew, Erysiphe cichoracearum. Genes repressed by inoculations with non-host and host powdery mildews relative to non-inoculated control plants accounted for two-thirds of the differentially expressed genes. A majority of these genes encoded components of photosynthesis and general metabolism. Consistent with this observation, Arabidopsis growth was inhibited following inoculation with Bgh, suggesting a shift in resource allocation from growth to defence. A number of defence-associated genes were induced during both interactions. These genes likely are components of basal defence responses, which do not effectively block host powdery mildew infections. In addition, genes encoding defensins, anti-microbial peptides whose expression is under the control of the JA/ET signalling pathway, were induced exclusively by non-host pathogens. Ectopic activation of JA/ET signalling protected Arabidopsis against two biotrophic host pathogens. Taken together, these data suggest that biotrophic host pathogens must either suppress or fail to elicit the JA/ET signal transduction pathway.